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25 February 2017

Cobalt and other resource scarcity stories

Image from Wikipaedia.
Various natural resources have been popping up in so called business news in these first weeks of 2017. As the world economy gets up to gear again, the struggle of Man against the finiteness of planet Earth becomes salient once again.

Overnight, an obscure metal seems to be setting an entire industry into peril. As remarkable as the news itself is the lagging response of the mainstream media to these matters, apparently only able to report on resource constraints only in the face of acute scarcity.

02 February 2017

The Nemesis

This is a translation into English of an article originally written in Portuguese for BomDia.eu.
I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped bring down the Soviet Union. So maybe there's another union that needs a little taming.
It was this way that Theodore Malloch described the functions he will soon take by the EU, as ambassador of the USA. This is in no way a lapsos linguae, but rather a symptom of an overt drive by the USA to dismantle the EU. The support provided by the US government to euro-phobic politicians, or the announced arrival to Europe of BreitbartNews (an extreme right propaganda medium whose director integrates the new US government) are other pieces of the same puzzle.

Irrespectively of the credibility one may lend to personalities like Theodore Malloch, it is important to understand the root of this threat to the European Union.

11 December 2016

This could be it for Silver

Commodities headlines have been dominated again this year by petroleum. Sluggish prices, falling extraction rates and exporting nations in trouble have provided much fodder for the specialised media. As a matter of fact, prospects have not changed that much from last year, in spite of a deeper than expected fall in extraction rates.

There are other natural resources though, that provide perhaps a more vivid view of your relationship with the finite planet we leave in. Recent data dug out by Steve StAngelo at the SRSRocco Report points to a peak in world Silver extraction in 2015. The likelihood of this being a terminal peak is rather high, more so than 2015 setting the terminal peak for petroleum.

05 December 2016

EROEI estimates show PV to be a fully mature technology

"The EROEI of Photo-Voltaics can be whatever you like these days" a friend of mine said once after attending a bio-physical economics conference. It epitomises a growing problem in this field, while the broad concept of net energy or Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) is broadly accepted there is no unified methodology for its calculation. Different researchers apply different methods producing markedly different results.

Photo-Voltaics (PV) is energy source where this problem has been more acute. Equipment and installation prices collapsed four or five fold since 2010, but published EROEI studies have not converged; in fact it appears they dispersed even further.

Fortunately, another friend, Rembrandt Koppelaar, has recently finished a study assessing these assorted EROEI estimates, entitled Solar-PV energy payback and net energy: Meta-assessment of study quality, reproducibility, and results harmonization. As it turns out, low EROEI figures are largely an artefact of outdated data and double accounting. A message by Rembrandt summarising the results of his study is reproduced below.

29 November 2016

Leaving the EU implies automatic exclusion from the EEA?

Image from Wikipaedia.
This question is slowly percolating through the wall of noise around the UK's exit from the EU. More attentive folks are wondering if to leave the European Economic Area (EEA) a formal notification is required. I.e., if beyond triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, in order to fully exit its social and economics commitments the UK needs to trigger Article 127 of the EEA Agreement.

This question is highly relevant for a simple reason: membership of the EEA was not voted in referendum, therefore the UK institutions - Government, Parliament and House of Lords - are not morally obliged to any particular course of action in this regard. If leaving the EU does not automatically exclude the UK from the EEA, it will then remain a full member of the so called "Common Market" with all the rights and obligations it entails.

05 September 2016

Presenting the Fix Ubuntu script set

The upgrade from Ubuntu 14.04 to 16.04 has been the most problematic between Long Term Support (LTS) releases of this Linux distribution that I have experienced. The system itself is stable enough (apart from the usual hiccups with cutting edge hardware) but when it comes to applications problems mount. I have had difficulties using almost every one of the programmes I most rely on. In the majority of cases the root cause is an important loss of features and functionality.

Every time I install or re-install Ubuntu 16.04 there is now a long list of tweaks and fixes to do in order to achieve a minimally usable desktop system. I eventually developed these fixes into a set of shell scripts to automate these tasks. I am now releasing a first tentative version of this script set gathered in a project christened Fix-Ubuntu. More details under the fold.

16 July 2016

Letter to readers

Dear readers,

The past two months I have been fighting a serious health condition. At this moment I am almost fully recovered and well off any sort of risk. However, a number of weeks away from work have complicated my calendar, compounding a backlog of things yet to achieve that now impend on the next few months.

As expected in the aftermath of this sort of events the general course of one's life is up for reconsideration. I fell I am now at a critical junction in my career and must carefully weight the next steps. There is a window of opportunity right ahead, that if fully missed might mean an early end to my time as a researcher.

Therefore I took the decision of entailing an extra effort to make the most of my present professional situation and maximise its possible outputs. While research is not all roses, this is definitely the sort of career I wish to follow.

An immediate consequence of this decision is the suspension sine dia of the press review. As can be guessed by the various gaps in recent times, it has become increasingly difficult to produce a weekly edition. In truth I can no longer guarantee the regularity maintained heretofore.

I myself know very well the disappointing feeling of seeing a regular content stream one got used to going off the air. And for that I present my apologies. However, I can assure this was a well pondered decision.

This is not the end of this blog, writing is to me a matter of necessity. Occasional commentary on the course of events will certainly continue to come, not only on energy but also on the other matters covered in this space.

Here I leave a short list of news sources that I used regularly to prepare the press review: